Anger has this poor quality: It refuses to be ruled. Anger rages against truth itself if the truth is shown to be contrary to its own will. – Seneca
What does that mean?
This quote details but one of the many reasons why anger is not a very useful emotional state. Unless, of course, you’re trying to manipulate someone else.
For the rest of us, anger is a great way to lose control, and to become the tool of the anger. In short, you cease to be the master of the tool, but instead become mastered by it. That’s not good.
It also mentions that anger has a will of its own. Not literally, of course, but anger has a direction and an intensity, and will follow the course it has set until it is sated.
And it mentions that facts matter little to anger. It will fight against them as it would against any other enemy it may have selected as a target. Are you getting the hint that anger isn’t very useful?
Why are alternatives to anger important?
A lot of people say that they are angry when they are really frustrated, upset, tired, irritated, cranky or… You get the picture. Words have meaning. If you say you are something, your mind will put no small effort into verifying and validating your statement. It will find the reasons for you, if you don’t have them already.
When you realize that those words have an emotional result in your mind and in your body, you will probably find that you can direct your path more accurately with a different word. That’s not to say you will never, or cannot ever, become angry. Just save the word for when it is a truly appropriate description of your state of mind.
How might your reaction be different if you say you are angry compared to if you said you were something else, perhaps just very disappointed with someone, and a bit tired too? Not only is it more accurate, but it will feel different, both to you, and to those who heard your answer, right?
Anger has very few redeeming qualities. The quote lists but a few of its many poor qualities, and I imagine you could come up with a few others, just from personal experience. By learning to use other words, more accurate words, you can improve communication with yourself and with others.
Where can I apply this in my life?
Are you truly angry, or are you something else, and you are using the ‘a’ word because it’s what you know? If you use a different word, you may find you have a different feeling, follow a different path, and end up at a different place. I tend to use upset, disappointed, or cranky instead of angry.
Why do I do that? Because I don’t like the path anger takes, and I like the destination even less. Take a moment and consider where the emotion of anger has taken you over the years. Fights, yelling and screaming matches, broken friendships, broken pottery, broken hearts, and that’s just some of what happened in your life and those of your friends, right?
Is that a path you wish to travel on a regular basis? I hope not. I’ve been there enough times to realize that I don’t want to go there again, if I can help it. And here’s a hint, you can help it. You can only become angry if you choose to become so. However, it will take some practice to build the other muscles and let the anger muscle atrophy to uselessness.
How do you change your habits and build muscles? I would try to train yourself to recognize the word ‘angry’ as it forms in your mind. When you detect it, take a moment to more closely examine what you are really feeling. Are you cranky with a hint of fatigue, or are you truly angry? How different does that feel just saying it in your head?
Then take a moment to change that sentence around in your head so that you use the new word instead. You’ll get some interesting looks the first time you’re looking kind of angry and someone asks you how you feel. They’re expecting ‘angry’ but you give them ‘grumpy’ instead. It will take them a moment to process the information, and they’ll make some interesting faces as they try to catch up. Yes, really.
When do you tend to get angry, and what are you really? If that word didn’t exist, how would you describe what you were the last few times you thought you were angry? Take a moment and really consider the answer to that question. How would the rest of your day have gone if you had not been angry, but had been that other thing instead? How would the path been different?
How we describe our mental state impacts us very significantly. If we say we are something, parts of our minds will work hard to find every bit of evidence that we are, and hide every bit that says we are not. From that attitude comes our trajectory, the path we travel. The path of anger is different from the path of disappointment or the path of cranky.
Take the time to banish the word angry from your list of choices for mental state. Find other ways to describe how you feel, and stick to those. Use diminishing words (a little upset as opposed to really upset) to help get back to normal as quickly as possible.
No one is perfect. We will feel anger from time to time. But that doesn’t mean we have to get angry, or fall under its control. And it starts by finding other words. What words will you use next time?